The National Audit Office Recommendations – Attempt to make things better

The main purpose of the National Audit Office (NAO) recommendations is to find and propose the way forward on how to fix identified irregularities during audits. In short, those recommendations tell audited public institutions that things need to be done better.

To address and implement the recommendations given by NAO, it’s not only the obligation of every public institution but also the way forward to improve their performance and become more transparent and achieve better results.

In Kosovo the National Audit Office, on an annual basis, carries out regularity audits of all budget organisations which receive their annual budgets through the annual budget law. This means, that also municipalities of Kosovo are audited on the annual basis and receive recommendation where they need to improve.

Addressing of Audit Recommendations – Municipalities in Kosovo

Amongst 30 indicators of the Municipal Performance Grant, that measure the municipal performance in the field of democratic governance, municipal management and service delivery, there is one particular indicator that shows to be the most challenging to most of the municipalities in Kosovo. The level of implementation of audit recommendations, is the indicator that should be on the priority of to do list of most of the municipalities in Kosovo.

The snapshot of the 2017 performance of all municipalities in this particular indicator, reveals that out of 38 municipalities in Kosovo, only 1 municipality has addressed above 50% of audit recommendations. This means that about 97 % of municipalities couldn’t address more than 50% of recommendations.

The results of municipal performance during 2018, show that 3 municipalities have addressed above 50 % of recommendations. This marks a slight increase in the performance in this particular indicator, while only 8% of all municipalities in Kosovo were able to address more that 50% of recommendations.

“The continuous low performance by most of the municipalities for us was a clear indicator, that this issue needs to be addressed through training”, explains Ilire Daija Buza, from DEMOS project.

Supporting municipalities to improve performance

The Municipal Performance Grant measures the performance of municipalities and rewards good performance. In addition to the financial reward for good performance, DEMOS project also provides training courses for low performing indicators in the area of Municipal Performance Grant (MPG).

To improve implementation level of audit recommendation and consequently municipal overall performance, DEMOS has organized a series of specific training courses in this area dedicated for relevant municipal representatives.

According to Dardan Maliqi from DEMOS team, in order to address the real need for trainings of the municipal officials and for them to be able to deliver in this particular indicator the Training Needs Assessment process is conducted on annual basis, “Through this process we identify the obstacles and challenges that municipalities face in improving their performance, and only then we design the training course that would best serve them to increase performance.”

During last year, 8 different trainings and around 600 training days were organised and delivered to municipal officials and municipal assembly members.

The training courses provided to the municipal officials regarding to the audit recommendations were: how to address and monitor the audit recommendations; asset management and planning and execution of budget. These trainings were delivered to around 300 municipal officials from different municipalities in Kosovo. According to Ilire Buza, the Senior Intervention Manger in DEMOS, most of the participants found the training courses very useful because it has increased their knowledge and skills regarding the implementation of audit recommendations. Most of the participants have identified more than one area impacted by the training.

We looked into very specific areas of the audit and tried to be as practical as possible, so when they go back to their municipalities they can implement the knowledge gained almost instantly,” explains Ilire.

The municipal officials which participated to our training take away all the know how’s of organizing the process and measures needed for addressing the audit recommendations, understanding the findings and recommendations, creating the action plans for implementation and monitoring of audit recommendations and at the end of the process how to report on the implementation,” she adds.

Best Practices

Few municipalities did exactly this, they almost immediately after the training put in practice all the knowledge and best practices gained during these training courses. Municipality of Kaçanik/Kačanik took immediate action. Working group was established which looked closer what needs to be done to improve the performance in this area.

“This training turned out to be very useful and productive, because we were able to put the knowledge gained into practice immediately. We established the working group within our municipality and produced an action plan which was then adopted by the assembly,” explains Festim Neziraj, Director of Administration in Kaçanik/Kačanik municipality. “Now we have the proper process in place on how to address the audit recommendations, and we are confident that we will reach better performance” he adds proudly.

The similar practice of putting newly acquired knowledge and best practices into motion happened in municipality of Suharekë/Suvareka.

According to Driton Maliqaj, the Director of Administration, the key issue in being successful in addressing of the NAO recommendations is to have all relevant staff on board during the process.

With the decision of mayor of our municipality we have formed the special commission. The directors are on the board of the commission, we meet as soon as we receive the report to see what needs to be done,” he explains the process. “With the recommendations and findings of the commission, our internal auditor then meets with those units in which recommendations were found. The entire process concludes with the report,” he adds.

Driton considers that training courses organised by DEMOS, especially the one on Asset Management was very useful for their municipality “It has helped us tremendously, applied knowledge and recommendations from this training enable us to address more than 90% of the recommendations.”

The way forward

The audit reports provided to the municipalities on annual basis holds them to account for the management of public funds and recommends what needs to be done better. Their recommendations are a great opportunity for municipalities to improve financial management and control, increasing efficiency and ultimately improving the public-sector performance. As such, they play a key part of the process of making systems and processes transparent and accountable.

We have seen that municipalities are more and more committed to make improvements in the management of processes. Much has been done, but more needs to be done in this regard. The recommendations given by the trainings should be taken seriously, after all we are all working towards the same goal, to reach higher standards in municipal management processes in the best interest of citizens.” concludes Ilire.

The DEMOS training program aims to increase job-related competencies of the municipal officials and assembly members in Democratic Governance, Municipal Management and in Transparency and Service Delivery with the overall objective to support municipalities to improve performance in lower scoring indicators of the Municipal Performance Grant.

DEMOS is the project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), co-financed by Sweden, Norway and implemented by Helvetas.